Protests following the death of George Floyd continue in Baltimore City.
Image Source: The Baltimore Sun
By Uma Ribeiro
On May 25th, George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was murdered by a White police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As he pleaded for his life and expressed he could not breathe, the police officer continued to press his knee into Floyd’s neck while three other officers watched him die and did nothing. The resulting uproar and nationwide protests sparked by Floyd’s death have been necessary for a long time. Protesters are demanding an end to police brutality, calling for the rightful defunding of police departments, and are fighting against systemic racism. The protests are not solely about the death of Floyd, but what his death represents: the thousands of Black lives lost to police violence, White supremacy, and systemic racism in America.
The fact is, police presence within the United States has not been positive. Law enforcement incite violence and take lives, and continue to do so every day. In a time when we are not even supposed to be in contact with one another due to Coronavirus, racism is still running rampant, and the death and maltreatment of Black people across the world did not cease when COVID-19 surfaced.
In fact, in the last few months alone, not only was George Floyd’s life taken, but we have also seen Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT worker, robbed of her life, shot and killed in her own home by Louisville police, and 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery murdered by White supremacists in what can only be described as a modern-day lynching.
Not only are Black people affected by the virus at a disproportionate rate, but they are also the racial group most targeted by police. Last month, as White, Right-wing individuals disregarded quarantine to demand the right to “get a haircut”, many with rifles strapped to their arms, they were not disrupted by police. Now, when protesters are demanding that the Black community stop being targets of extreme violence, White supremacy, and systemic racism, law enforcement jumps at the chance to stop them, encouraged by a president who called in the National Guard to threaten peaceful protesters and their First Amendment rights.
The police have been seen inciting and escalating extreme violence at protests, with videos surfacing across social media of law enforcement injuring peaceful protesters, many running into protesters with their vehicles, knocking them to the ground, and directly shooting at them. As of now, over 10,000 protesters have been arrested in the United States, many revealing the horrific physical and mental abuses faced while in police custody through social media outlets. The actions of the police toward protesters only emphasizes the need for their immediate dismantlement and proves that police are the problem, not the protesters.
Despite the threat of police violence and the Coronavirus, protesters continue to demand change. The need to address the deeply rooted racism that has been present in this country for hundreds of years is larger than our fear of the virus. While many news outlets report the protests as “violent,” most which have occurred in the last couple of weeks have been peaceful, with those attending calling for basic human rights for all Black people.
Many youth and students have led and attended protests, including those in Howard County. “The protest was peaceful and it felt empowering to just be there. I was happily surprised at how many people showed up to show solidarity and [express] anger for the mistreatment of Black people in America,” comments a Hammond student who attended the Tuesday protest organized by youth in which Howard County residents marched to the Columbia lakefront to hold a vigil in honor of George Floyd.
The protests are not only a necessary measure, but one that has already sparked change as well as widespread awareness and support. The protests have already resulted in much-needed change, and the Black Lives Matter movement is gaining momentum like never before. As a result of nationwide protests, the four officers responsible for the death of George Floyd have been arrested, and Derek Chauvin, the former officer facing second degree murder charges is set to make his first court appearance. They have also reopened Breonna Taylor’s case, and the members of the Minneapolis City Council have announced their plans to disband the Minneapolis Police Department.
Most Hammond students agree that the measures currently being taken to end the rampant racial discrimination still present within our country and across the globe are necessary and beneficial. Junior Avery Moe commented, “The protests are so empowering and necessary. It makes me so happy to see people gathering and standing up for something that truly does matter. On one hand, it is absolutely terrifying to see that the police are retaliating against peaceful protests in a way that is so out of proportion. I truly commend every single person who has protested for their bravery. Diverse voices need to be projected in America to encourage change. Protests are an amazing way to get those voices out there.”
Rising Hammond Junior, Adom Amissah, commented, “As a Black woman myself it is great to see my people and many others fight against the injustice we have faced for years. The protests occurring to me mean that people are now finally waking up to the injustice that people of color face in America. They stand for justice, a popular chant used during these protests is ‘No justice. No peace’ and I believe that is powerful and holds a very heavy truth. As I stated earlier the American system was not made to benefit people of color in the slightest. Protests are finally revealing it, allowing people to wake up to the corruption.”
Social media has flooded with resources and support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and has played an overall positive role in spreading awareness. “Social media has been both good and bad in my opinion. I have learned far more on social media than I have any other news source. People who have taken part in protests and riots are sharing their stories, revealing what police are actually doing to the world. It is also very empowering to see people stand together on social media. It really motivates me to constantly keep learning and keep signing every single new petition I see. I do have a strong opinion on performative action, though. Your support should be coming from your heart. Not for [popularity],” Moe adds.
Protesters continue to demand reform of law enforcement, the need to defund police departments across the country, and demand action and awareness regarding the violence Black people continuously face on a daily basis. Many are fearful that after the ongoing outrage dies down and the protests begin to cease, further action will cease along with it.
“I believe that the government will now have to look at the issue of injustice that Black Americans and other people of color have encountered because this system was not made to benefit us in the slightest. We can ensure that more progress will occur after the protests cease by calling out the government for its wrong doings and doing everything in our ability to make sure our concerns are heard,” Amissah commented.
Yes, many positive changes have been made. However, we still have a long way to go. The violence Black people face in this country is not new. Protests sparked by the death of George Floyd are only the beginning of necessary measures that must be taken to ensure no more Black lives are unjustly taken and that no police officer can get away with murder and unneccesary violence. “I hope that we will see more murderers face charges. As of right now, the cops who killed Breonna Taylor have not been charged, as well as countless other Black people who have lost their lives to racists. I hope reform will begin, more people will be rightfully held accountable, and the police will be defunded,” added Moe. “After protests cease, I hope that people continue using their voices and standing up for Black lives. It’s a fight that transcends past a single week or month or however long. Most importantly: educate. Make sure you let as many people know— especially young ones, future parents, and yourself— what is happening in America and why they should stand up for Black lives. Education is so fundamental for progression.”
Hammond students continue to emphasize the importance of educating oneself on race and inequality within this country in order to create a just, equitable society. “I would encourage those who are not people of color to educate themselves…They can read works of people of color and research because we do live in the age of technology. You have many resources at your fingertips. And lastly [it is important to] get over White fragility and learn about your White privilege. Talks of race might make you uncomfortable, but imagine how tired and uncomfortable people of color are having to deal with racism all the time,” Amissah states.
As of now, protests, marches, and sit-ins will continue, with plans already in place for Maryland protests to occur throughout the month of June, and a March on Washington set to occur on the 28th of August at the Lincoln Memorial. It is important to remember that we are not a nation in turmoil. We are a nation finally waking up and recognizing that change must be made.